A love of poetry—of the poet’s life—infuses these essays and brings a glow to the theoretical and a bright flame to the...

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AMERICAN ORIGINALITY

ESSAYS ON POETRY

A celebrated poet collects some recent essays on theory, craft, and other poets.

In her second essay collection, after Proofs and Theories (1994), Glück (English and Creative Writing/Yale Univ.; Faithful and Virtuous Night, 2014, etc.), who has won about every major poetry prize, delivers a generous variety of pieces. Some deal with the current state of American poetry; some are admiring assessments of her fellow poets (Emily Dickinson, Robert Pinsky, Stephen Dobyns, Dan Chiasson); and one group of 10 comprises introductions to first books by new poets, artists whose work Glück has evaluated for various writing contests. These pieces, unsurprisingly, are uniformly laudatory (“mastery of tone and diction”; “haunting, elusive, luminous”)—though, as the essays clearly reveal, the poets themselves are hardly uniform. These pieces also feature many quoted passages. Of course, the more heavily theoretical pieces will appeal primarily to Glück’s fellow poets and to the literati. The author observes, for example, that recent poetry “affords two main types of incomplete sentences: the aborted whole and the sentence with gaps. In each case, the nonexistent, the unspoken, becomes a focus; ideally, a whirling concentration of questions.” Near the end are more personal essays that deal with Glück’s childhood, her years in psychoanalysis, and her insights about the varying effects of happiness and despair on poets. She convincingly argues that happiness is the more beneficial, productive emotion, for it does not deny the writer access to the dark side. Another entertaining and revelatory piece explores the author’s childhood revenge fantasies and how, uniquely, they accelerated her journey into the world of poetry. And there are smiles (maybe even a guffaw or two) in some of her observations—e.g., that Rilke could be “oddly masturbatory.”

A love of poetry—of the poet’s life—infuses these essays and brings a glow to the theoretical and a bright flame to the personal.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-29955-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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